Colorful illuminated surfaces positioned next to each other

© Axis Expotechnik

Lightpanel: Planar light as a design element

Rüdiger Szak and his son Felix are setting impressive trends in architecture, interior design, store fittings and booth construction with their custom-made LED surface lights made from PLEXIGLAS®.

Large-scale LED lights give rooms and buildings a striking appearance and create a special atmosphere. That’s why Rüdiger and Felix Szak manufacture individual lighting solutions with their company axis. Their Lightpanels are suitable as ceiling panels, flooring or for outdoor use, and thanks to PLEXIGLAS® the brand acrylic glass from Evonik, they light up uniformly even when bent. In an interview, the designers recount how an initial idea has become an entire product family.

How did the idea for your first Lightpanel come about?

Rüdiger Szak: An artist and physician approached us because he wanted to optically combine photographs and radiographs. He wanted to illuminate the motifs and was looking for a way to generate a particularly flat surface that would be illuminated uniformly. It should look like a picture on the wall and not like a massive light box, which was being used in illuminated sign advertising at the time, for example. So then we set about looking for a solution. That was ten years ago.

How did you proceed?

Felix Szak: When we receive a request that we cannot handle with our existing product range, we often develop a new technical solution to make it possible. At the time, we had already been working a lot with light in our company axis, but we were mainly using fluorescent tubes, which were simply too thick for very flat designs. But at that time, LEDs were becoming more powerful and we quickly realized that LEDs would open up completely new design possibilities.

How so?

Felix Szak: LEDs are significantly more compact than other illuminants, but still very luminous. We then found a way to couple the light of these energy-saving illuminants via the edges of a light-scattering material and a way for the light to be emitted from the entire surface. This made much flatter constructions possible.

The core element of the Lightpanel is two light-scattering panels made of PLEXIGLAS®. What requirements does the material need to meet?

“Without PLEXIGLAS® the uniform light distribution of our Lightpanels would not be possible.”

Rüdiger Szak
axis company founder

Rüdiger Szak: It has to distribute the light in such a way that the entire surface is illuminated evenly – even in different sizes. In our tests, PLEXIGLAS® LED, thanks to its high light output, proved to be by far the best solution for the disk, into which we feed the light via the edge. Another crucial factor was the different reference sizes of the acrylic glass, which offer an optimal and as bright as possible light distribution for each size – and cost-effective pricing.

Felix Szak: In addition, we use a diffuser made of PLEXIGLAS® Satinice to further reinforce the uniform light effect. This material also offers a very nice and high-quality feel, which our customers greatly appreciate. For example, there are no reflections and the surface appears to be velvety. After all, our LED surface light is not a lamp that you simply hang from the ceiling. Our product is a very high-value, custom-made solution for architectural lighting.

Your Lightpanel original was awarded the iF material award in 2010. Since then you have developed many other Lightpanel variants. How did that happen?

Felix Szak: We follow the requirements of our customers. When we presented the Lightpanel at Euroshop 2008, there was less interest in surface lights than there is now. Uniformly illuminated surfaces were mainly exciting for lighting advertisers. Things have changed since then, because architects have discovered surface light as a medium for design. We now receive inquiries from quite different areas and each project has completely different requirements, which means that new Lightpanel variants continue to emerge.

Design panel – elements for innovative architecture

In 2010, Rüdiger Szak (axis) and this brother Andreas Szak (acrysign) established the brand Design panel to market innovative product developments from both companies. The combination of surface materials developed by acrysign with the Lightpanels of axis creates unique design elements for architecture and object design.

Why is one product not sufficient to cover all customer requirements?

Rüdiger Szak: The requirements are simply too diverse: For example, our customers have particular demands for the light quality, they want to realize curved surfaces or flooring that can be driven on for motor shows. That is why we have developed further light solutions over the years – for example those that are suitable for outdoor use, those that enable free-form shapes, those that can be engraved or a Lightpanel combined with translucent materials.